I was involved in a conversation today where I brought up thought leadership marketing and received a response something to the effect of “oh, yeah, I’ve heard that buzzword thrown around a bit.” (Interesting, I was under the impression that it hadn’t quite reached buzzword status yet.)
Nevertheless, the conversation went a bit more smoothly as we talked through the nuance of what it really takes for an organization to not only position itself as a credible, thought leading trusted advisor but to further act on and sustain that position.
The latter two components are where the real challenge lies! The real issue, in my mind, is that like so many other strategies or ’stratics’ (tactical tools that marketers parade out as strategies), thought leadership and social media are simply bolted on to an existing, and remarkably incompatible marketing strategy and then tears are shed when things don’t go as planned. If you dig just a little deeper, I’d argue that thought leadership marketing is more about a wholesale organizational culture shift than it is about marketing, but that’s for another post.
So, what does “thought leadership is not enough” really mean? Well, in short, there are really three components that make up the thought leadership marketing go to market strategy. Thought Leadership, Insurgent/Underdog Marketing and Social Media Marketing. This is cliched ‘three legged stool’ that holds up the concept of thought leadership marketing. In short, being a thought leader will not be ‘enough’ in the near future. In fact, I’d argue that it never has been, but we’ll save that for another argument. Let’s look at each of the three components:
Thought Leadership turns organizational activity (a.k.a. your content development and deployment strategy) into intellectual capital that supports relevant advocacy positions, tacit domain expertise and point-of-view platforms to shape and influence market perceptions and establish your organization as a thought leader, knowledge resource, subject matter expert and ultimately, a trusted client advisor. Being a thought leader requires that you have actual leading thinkers in an organization. That said, thought leadership on its own, that is, the actual ‘thought leading product’ that an organization can take to market is hamstrung without a catalyst. In this case, the catalyst lies in the concept of insurgent marketing. More specifically, effective thought leaders possess an insurgent mindset.
|From MarketingSavant Mind Maps|
Insurgent marketing principles are those used extensively by political candidates. Namely, insurgent marketers are committed to changing the market dialogue, defining the future (for their target markets), embracing the market conversation, working from the inside-out and always ‘playing offense’ in your marketing. Insurgent marketing can deliver immediate and measurable lead and prospect opportunity improvements and drive demand generation by focusing on delivering wins and competing on higher ideals, not lower prices, in the age of the empowered buyer. Insurgency is not size defendant. There are scores of very large companies that may lead their industry which have never given up their insurgent mindset. Insurgency generally favors the small, agile competitor (which, coincidentally, is why we find thought leadership marketing working particularly well for startups), but it’s not always so.
|From MarketingSavant Mind Maps|
Social media and digital marketing combined with trusted thought leading content and an insurgent mindset form a foundation for sharing and relevant dialogue with clients and markets that builds market capital and provides the insights, access, and influence required to create demand generation. Social media is the channel or vessel that allows marketers gather great insights from the market through an ongoing dialogue and then leverage all of the great insights in a client-driven medium that allows for the most free-flowing exchange of ideas even employed by marketers. Of course, traditional thought leadership was not delivered through social media, but we’re not talking about traditional thought leadership marketing. The next generation of thought leaders must be conversant (and conversing) in social media.
With all of the above having been said, I have a few questions for would be thought leadership marketers.
1. Where does your thought leadership marketing strategy sit in your organization? If it’s only in marketing, it needs to go up a level or two.
2. How do you rank yourself as you work through the elements of insurgent marketing (see the mind map below)?
3. If you’re contemplating pursuing thought leadership, are you prepared to shift your culture to share your intellectual capital, embrace the insurgent mindset and engage in the world of social media?